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Jobsupport, Sydney, Friday, 13 November 1998: address on the occasion of the presentation of awards.

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Since I became Governor-General, Helen and I have visited, and been associated with, an extraordinarily large number of organisations and institutions working for the disadvantaged in our community. Most of those visits have been mixed occasions of pleasure and sadness. Sadness at the plight of those whose needs were being served, pleasure and admiration at the sheer goodness of those who work to help them.

In contrast, today is not a mixed occasion at all. It is an occasion of unqualified pleasure as we celebrate an important milestone in the life and achievements of Jobsupport, namely, its achievement of no less than 300 people with intellectual disability in regular continuous and continuing employment.

Jobsupport was, as you know, established in 1986 to enable people with an intellectual disability to find and retain employment in the regular Australian workforce. Since then, it has enjoyed support from both sides of mainstream politics. That is evidenced by the fact that it has been supported by both the present Commonwealth coalition government and the former ALP government. It is also demonstrated by the presence here today of Mr Leo Macleay MP and Dr Brendan Nelson MP who are both patrons of the organisation. It has worked unremittingly to achieve its objectives. And it has enjoyed spectacular success as the reason for today’s celebration makes plain. Three hundred people disadvantaged by some intellectual disability in regular and continuing employment is a tremendous achievement. In fact, the achievement is even more than that since, in addition to those 300, there have been some others who have been found employment but who have, for one reason or another, moved on.

The importance of that achievement can be measured in a number of ways. In human lives that have been transformed: not only, the 300 and more who have been found regular employment but all those who love and support them and who experience the difficulties, the discouragements and the heart breaks that flow from disability every bit as much as the person himself or herself. In self-esteem that has been gained. In outcomes that have been achieved. In hope that has been restored.

The extent of the achievement can also be measured in terms that transcend any of the individuals involved. The longer I am Governor-General of this country, the more


convinced Helen and I become that the true and the ultimate test of our worth as a nation is how we treat the most vulnerable members of our community. Those who suffer intellectual disabilities are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable of our fellow Australians. Jobsupport has, during its life, made an immeasurable contribution to helping us pass that test. And it has, of course, also made an immeasurable contribution to our community by helping educate us all about the intrinsic worth, the qualities and the capacities of persons with an intellectual disability. And by helping ensure that we can never return to the days when those qualities and capacities were neither understood nor acknowledged.

In thinking about this gathering today, I have wondered about which of three groups should be given the most credit for the achievement of the milestone we are celebrating. Obviously, the clients, those wonderful people who have worked so hard to take advantage of opportunity, deserve great praise. I congratulate and thank them all for their qualities, their determination and their achievements. And also, with them and within their group, I congratulate and thank all those family members and friends who have loved and supported them as they have joined the workforce.

The second group, of course, consists of the employers. Those who have shared Jobsupport’s vision and its determination to serve our community. Particularly those employers who have supported Jobsupport from the beginning. Without their support, the program could never have enjoyed the great success that it has.

Finally, of course, there is Jobsupport itself and all those who inspired it, were involved in its foundation, have worked for it and have supported it either materially or by advice and encouragement. You have achieved great things. Again, I congratulate and thank you.

In truth, of course, its impossible to say which of those three groups is entitled to the most credit. For the credit belongs to them all jointly. Jobsupport’s achievements have been joint achievements of them all. Together they have set an example which should serve as a blueprint as we approach the commencement of the second century of our nation: walking together, caring together, working together, achieving together.

It will now be my privilege to present Certificates of Achievement to some of the employers and clients who have played a leading role in Jobsupport’s achievement. We should, however, all remember that they are but some. As I have said, the achievement which we are celebrating is a joint one in which every individual who has helped Jobsupport, every client who has achieved regular employment and every employer who has made that possible all share.